THE NEW COVENANT: Part 3 - Entrance
The people of Israel made a covenant with God. This was a promise that they would obey His laws (the Law of Moses) and God, in turn, would bless the people. The covenant also included the warning that God would curse the people if they did not obey the Law. Most of the time, this did not go so well for Israel. However, during the first century, when Jesus came to earth, God made a New Covenant and this one is clearly stated to be a “better” covenant (Heb. 7:22; 8:6). But in what ways is it better?
In the last article, we observed that the New Covenant is better because it is offered to all men rather than just the Israelites. This time, we consider that the New Covenant is better because of the way we enter into it.
In the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel made a perpetual agreement with God. “So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant” (Ex. 31:16). The covenant was not just for that generation, but it applied to every generation of Israelites after that. Parents were deciding what their children would do and their grandchildren and on and on. This means that when a person was born an Israelite, even though they didn’t choose to be an Israelite, they were required to follow the Law of Moses. Further, even if these later generations did not believe in God or care a thing about Him, they were still subject to the curses of the covenant. So the people of Israel were often cursed by the covenant that they didn’t care anything about or, in some cases, know anything about. But still it was required of them. They had no choice.
This is not the case with the New Covenant. We enter into this covenant based on faith. Your faith, not someone else’s. Paul states that those who once were “strangers to the covenants of promise” were brought near in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:12-13). We enter into this New Covenant through Jesus, and we enter into a relationship with Jesus through faith and baptism (Gal. 3:26-27). As a result, you can decide to be part of this covenant, but you cannot force it on the generations after you. They must decide for themselves.
Choice. That’s one thing that makes the New Covenant better than the Old. You cherish freedom, right? It is one of the highest ideals we Americans have. Then you should appreciate that the New Covenant is better than the Old.
There is another benefit to the way we enter into the covenant though. God has always wanted faith from His people (Heb. 11:6). It is by faith that the men of old (including those under the Old Covenant) gained approval (Heb. 11:2,39). So, under the Old Covenant, what the Israelites needed was faith. But they didn’t have to have faith to be an Israelite. This resulted in a constant conflict between God and His people. They became His people by birth, but lacked what God truly cared about.
Fast forward to the New Covenant and you will see that the relationship between Christians and God is naturally better than the one between the Israelites and God. After all, a person cannot become a Christian without faith. Therefore, every Christian starts with the one trait that pleases God. Foreseeing this, the old prophecy about the New Covenant said that “they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them” (Heb. 8:11; Jer. 31:34).
Since the New Covenant begins with choice and faith it naturally creates a people more pleasing to God. Christians love Him and are inclined to obey Him. That was not the case for the Israelites. They were not born with faith or love. They were just born.
There are several things we should take from this better aspect of the New Covenant. For one, we need to recognize the need for choice. We should choose God. We should train up our children in such a way that they choose God. That’s different than getting them to do what has always been done. They need to learn to believe in God. They need to make the personal choice to follow Him.
In Christ, we should cherish our choice. We should not regret being Christians but rejoice that this is the path we have chosen. The path will be difficult at times, but it is the path we have chosen rather than one we were unwillingly born into.
If we enter into the covenant through faith and if it is through faith that we please God, then we must always maintain our faith. Remember why you believe. Grow in your trust for God. Because if you lose your faith, you lose everything that matters.
Finally, we should be able to see the great mistake of infant baptism. There is literally not a single example of infants being baptized in the New Testament. Not one. There is no command to baptize an infant. But more than that, baptizing infants undermines the better nature of the New Covenant. In so doing, people have declared that Christianity can be thrust upon someone without choice or faith. That would lead to the same problems that the Old Covenant already had. In that way, the New Covenant would not be new. It would just be same old, same old.